Re: [dssslist] readable syntaxes (was: Markup Technology Position)

Subject: Re: [dssslist] readable syntaxes (was: Markup Technology Position)
From: Norman Gray <norman@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
Date: Fri, 15 Jul 2005 18:02:09 +0100

On 2005 Jul 15 , at 02.28, G. Ken Holman wrote:

This is a favourite discussion of mine as well, though on the other
side of the wall.

Excellent! I think there's no one right answer.

Having developed hands-on training courses and taught both DSSSL
and XSLT to the audiences who are responsible for producing day-to-
day results from XML (many of whom are not programmers), treating
XSLT as a templating language and DSSSL as a programming language
makes XSLT *far* more accessible to non-programmers.

Heedless of the fact that XSLT is, itself, Turing Complete and can
be used as a programming language in edge cases where simple
templating is insufficient, so much of the work with XSLT is simple
templating of the result tree in template rules.

Your point is strongly made. This is a perspective I keep forgetting, since my own experience has been the opposite, and most of the times I've used XSLT it's felt much more like programming I've been doing, and not templating. That is, the XSLT documents I've written, in my recollection, have more text in tags, and moreover tags in the xslt namespace, than they have text in element content.

The sort of syntax I was talking about is indeed rather poor for
anything that's perceived as a document, by which I mean something
where the content is the important thing, with the markup as sugar.
That `document' category would I think include XSLT where the focus,
or user's perception, is that it is a template.

I expanded on this in [1], which was one of the spinoff threads in
that xml-dev discussion (ie, not part of the thread I pointed at

But I agree this is a matter of perception.

I think it's great, but
when I announced it on xml-dev a while ago[1] it took off and soared
on its thermals in much the same way a brick does.  Oh well...


Now, if LX: was merely an editing fagade ... merely the user
interface to the editing of an XML document ... *that* would be
entirely acceptable in my eyes.  Feed it XML but see LX: and export
only XML and no alternative syntax.

That was, in a sense, what I was aiming at. The Lx thing started off as a tool to translate files in the Lx syntax into ones in XML instance syntax, for feeding into an XSLT engine. Then I realised that the intermediate XML didn't matter, and what was important was that what the XSLT engine really read was not XML, but a SAX stream. So all that the Lx stuff is, is an alternative way of producing such a stream.

In exactly the same way (and indeed this is what led to the SAX-is-
key thing), DSSSL is defined as a way of transforming groves into
groves: the deserialisation before, and the re-serialisation after,
aren't part of the issue.  Another (disjoint?) part of the network of
threads is at [2].

So the Lx stuff wasn't for `documents' or `XSLT templates' (things
with more content than elements), but for `XSLT programs' (things
with more elements than element content), and wasn't for interchange,
but for plugging your transformation script into your transformer.

Thus I can indeed imagine (but wouldn't have the GUI skills to write)
your excellent idea of a funky editor, which put a SAX stream onto
your screen in whatever format you liked, put it onto disk in
whichever format it liked, or at the push of a magic button pushed
the stream to your transformer as the SAX stream itself, which is the
only thing that matters.  The old editor described in the posting [2]
is responding to sounds very much like what you suggest.

I write very little DSSSL these days, and my major DSSSL project has
finished its purpose, but the spec's inspired emphasis on the the
_abstract_ structure of the post-parse information, and the insights
this gives you into what is (un)important where, are lessons I have
repeatedly applied to very different types of structured information.

Motto: *ML is not about angle-brackets.

Well, it _is_ Friday afternoon....

All the best,



-- ---------------------------------------------------------------------- Norman Gray : Physics & Astronomy, Glasgow University, UK :

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